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In 1959, Van Dyke landed a small part in the Broadway comedy review Girls Against the Boys. The show only lasted two weeks, and he soon moved on to another production. Along with Chita Rivera, Paul Lynde and Charles Nelson Reilly, Van Dyke was cast in the musical Bye Bye Birdie, which made its Broadway debut in 1960. The musical proved to a big hit, and it brought Van Dyke his one and only Tony Award win in 1961, for his supporting role. Not long after, his career took off.
Van Dyke was born on December 13, 1925, in West Plains, Missouri, to Hazel Victoria (née McCord; 1896 – 1992), a stenographer, and Loren Wayne "Cookie" Van Dyke (1898–1976), a salesman. He grew up in Danville, Illinois. He is the older brother of actor Jerry Van Dyke (1931–2018), who is best known for a role on the TV series Coach. Van Dyke has Dutch, English, Irish, and Scottish ancestry, with a family line that traces back to Mayflower passenger John Alden.
Poverty may have pushed Sien back into prostitution; the home became less happy and Van Gogh may have felt family life was irreconcilable with his artistic development. Sien gave her daughter to her mother, and baby Willem to her brother. Willem remembered visiting Rotterdam when he was about 12, when an uncle tried to persuade Sien to marry to legitimise the child. He believed Van Gogh was his father, but the timing of his birth makes this unlikely. Sien drowned herself in the River Scheldt in 1904.
Van Gogh returned to Cuesmes in August 1880, where he lodged with a miner until October. He became interested in the people and scenes around him, and recorded them in drawings after Theo's suggestion that he take up art in earnest. He travelled to Brussels later in the year, to follow Theo's recommendation that he study with the Dutch artist Willem Roelofs, who persuaded him – in spite of his dislike of formal schools of art – to attend the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts. He registered at the Académie in November 1880, where he studied anatomy and the standard rules of modelling and perspective.
Albert Aurier praised his work in the Mercure de France in January 1890, and described him as "a genius". In February Van Gogh painted five versions of L'Arlésienne (Madame Ginoux), based on a charcoal sketch Gauguin had produced when she sat for both artists in November 1888.[note 10] Also in February, Van Gogh was invited by Les XX, a society of avant-garde painters in Brussels, to participate in their annual exhibition. At the opening dinner a Les XX member, Henry de Groux, insulted Van Gogh's work. Toulouse-Lautrec demanded satisfaction, and Signac declared he would continue to fight for Van Gogh's honour if Lautrec surrendered. De Groux apologised for the slight and left the group. Later, while Van Gogh's exhibit was on display with the Artistes Indépendants in Paris, Claude Monet said that his work was the best in the show. After the birth of his nephew, Van Gogh wrote, "I started right away to make a picture for him, to hang in their bedroom, branches of white almond blossom against a blue sky."
The time in Arles became one of Van Gogh's more prolific periods: he completed 200 paintings, and more than 100 drawings and watercolours. He was enchanted by the local landscape and light; his works from this period are rich in yellow, ultramarine and mauve. His paintings include harvests, wheat fields and general rural landmarks from the area, including The Old Mill (1888), a picturesque structure bordering the wheat fields. This was one of seven canvases sent to Pont-Aven on 4 October 1888 in an exchange of works with Paul Gauguin, Émile Bernard, Charles Laval and others.
In 1892 Émile Bernard organised a small solo show of Van Gogh's paintings in Paris, and Julien Tanguy exhibited his Van Gogh paintings with several consigned from Johanna van Gogh-Bonger. In April 1894 the Durand-Rue Gallery in Paris agreed to take 10 paintings on consignment from Van Gogh's estate. In 1896, the Fauvist painter Henri Matisse, then an unknown art student, visited John Peter Russell on Belle Île off Brittany. Russell had been a close friend of Van Gogh; he introduced Matisse to the Dutchman's work, and gave him a Van Gogh drawing. Influenced by Van Gogh, Matisse abandoned his earth-coloured palette for bright colours.